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INSIDE POLITICS

U.S. Adds 145k Jobs In Dec. 2019, Unemployment Holds Steady; GOP Rep Apologizes For Saying Some Dems Love Terrorists; Pompeo: U.S. Believes Iran "Likely" Shot Down Ukrainian Plane; Dems Face Deadline Tonight To Qualify For Next Debate In Iowa. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 10, 2020 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN REPORTER: -- 2017, and really kind of on par with the last seven or eight years. It doesn't approach some of the best years of the Obama administration. When you watch these numbers, we also really look at wages, 2.9 percent wage growth. This has been the missing piece, the missing piece of a strong job market, John, 2.9 percent wage growth with a market that looks like -- a job market that looks like it is nearing full employment. You would expect those wage numbers to be higher. They just haven't been. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Christine Romans, appreciate that. Damian Paletta with the Washington Post joins us conversation. Let's pick up there. Christine says, strong not sizzling. Fair -- very fair assessment. Looking at the latest data, can we look ahead? Is there more growth? We're in the 11th year of an economic expansion. A lot of people think at some point that has to stop. What are the clues for what comes next?

DAMIAN PALETTA, ECONOMIC EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean I think we've come a long way since August when it looked like we could be barreling into a recession, you know, in mid-2020. And we will have the China deal and USMCA behind us. So some of that, you know, uncertainty risk from Washington could help the economy move forward.

I don't think though there's expected to some big shot in the arm heading into November quite frankly. And so that means is this economy that's kind of chugging along, not moving at super high speed but still moving along enough, you know, for the White House to feel good. And I think it is probably at this point, but there's a long way to go between now and November and any little change can give voters different impression.

KING: What do you mention, so any president, any president, forget his name, forget his party, running for reelection 50-year low in unemployment. You know, the economy keeps adding jobs and let's go back to the Trump map. Look at the Trump map. Pennsylvania, December 2016, 5.6 percent, now 4.3 percent, Wisconsin, down from where it was when the President won the election, Michigan, unemployment rate down, Florida, unemployment rate down, Iowa, unemployment rate down, Ohio, unemployment rate down. If you're, again, a president, no matter your name, no matter your party running for reelection, that was your map in 2016. Every one of those big battleground states that went for Trump has a lower unemployment rate today. That's a pretty good calling card.

DAN BALZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It's a very good calling card and if -- it would be more impressive for the President if he could stay on that message. Most presidents running for reelection would talk about that constantly. Not every day, obviously, because events happen. But that would be the main message.

And perhaps that is quietly the main message that the Trump campaign is delivering to voters in ways that we don't necessarily see. But the President himself continues to offer distractions and continues to raise questions. I mean I think one of the big issues is, is this going to be an election that's decided on some of these traditional issues, peace, and prosperity? Or is it all what people think and feel about Donald Trump?

KING: Now, Trump and his tone and it's kind of -- and to your point, when he does talk about the economy, he always wants to say it's the greatest. He acts as if the economy was dead when he took office and he suddenly revived it. That's just not true. He inherited a very strong economy. I just want to show you, the S&P 500, in the first three years of office of recent presidents.

President Trump is very good. Now that the number, you see how high it is, it is at a record. It is at a record high, as is the Dow, because as the numbers go up. But in terms of the percentage growth from day one through the third year in office, Barack Obama had a higher percentage growth. George H.W. Bush had a higher percentage growth. Bill Clinton right about in the ball park. The president always wants to say he's the greatest. And numbers just don't back that up. That doesn't mean it's not very good. There's another way to look at it.

The first 34 months of the Trump administration, the economy added 6.5 million jobs. That's great. That's something for the President to rightly brag about. But look at the final 34 months of the Obama administration. The economy added 7.5 million jobs. The economy was thriving when he came into office and he can argue he sustained it. That's a pretty good calling card. He just wants to say, no, it was dead, I saved it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that is what you see the President do time and time again. He takes things that are true and good for him, but he exaggerates them so then it's situations like this. That chart there will make no difference to the President when he's speaking it to his rallies. And it's notable because that really does -- the voters truly do absorb that message.

And that is what you hear from them when we go to rallies all the time. And we're in these swing states. And we're talking to them about whatever news of the day is. They go back to the economy time and time again because essentially they feel not as burdened to select a president that acts in line with their characteristics or morals or values if the economy is doing well and is not a big concern for them. KING: And it'll be interesting, you mentioned the China trade deal, likely passage of USMCA. Those are the things the President, the Congress that can do much more in an election year. The President is likely not going to get much help from a Democratic House so we will see. Now, anything he can do just going to have to come administratively.

[12:34:27]

Up next for us, a Republican apology after he accused Democratic colleagues of loving terrorists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: An apology this hour from Republican Congressman Doug Collins after he accused Democrats of siding with terrorists over the President of the United States. In a series of tweets a short time ago, Congressman Collins admitting he went too far. I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, the Congressman now says.

A step back there moment there, other Republicans now, do see a clear line between the Democrats efforts to limit the President's war-making powers and their intense dislike of the man in the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it OK for some of you colleagues to say that the Democrats love terrorists? That's what Doug Collins says. Is that OK?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think it's been absolutely clear that the Democrats are so blinded by their hatred of President Trump that they will not stand with him even when he takes actions to kill the world's deadliest terrorists. And I think that they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

RAJU: They love terrorists like Collins says?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Notice the distinction there, sharp criticism of Liz Cheney of the Democrats. The Democrats will say that's not true, but that they're asserting the constitutional powers of the House. But she would not take the bait when ask the question about Doug Collins.

[12:40:01]

I want to go back because in today's age, in today's partisan politics where people stay in their track, it is rare. And the congressman deserves credit, Congressman Collins deserves credit for deciding, you know what, I went too far. I'm going to apologize.

Let's go back. Here's how he started all this on television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): I did not think she could become more hypocritical than she was during impeachment. But guess what, surprise, surprise, Nancy Pelosi does it again. And her Democrats fall right in line. One, they're in love with terrorists. We see that. They mourned Soleimani more than they mourned our gold star families who are the ones who suffered under Soleimani.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No, no Democrat loves Soleimani. And no Democrat to my knowledge has mourned Soleimani. They have questioned about the wisdom, the strategic wisdom of the tactical victory in the sense of taking him out. But again, in this age it is rare to see somebody come forward in relatively short order and say, you know what, I was wrong. I'm sorry.

BALZ: He does deserve credit just as he deserves the criticism he got for what he said originally. We know he is a very fast talker. And clearly, at that moment, his words got ahead of his brain, probably. And today, by pulling it back, he puts us back into a place where we can have a more serious discussion about the wisdom and value strategically of what was done here as opposed to who is mourning or who isn't mourning the death of Soleimani.

KING: Right. And that's an important point because our business gets caught up in this sometimes too, in the sense that you have a drama like this where people are throwing around accusations like this and saying things like this when the country should be having a sober conversation about what to do and how to handle the confrontation with Iran.

As you jump in, I just want to play, you know, there are heroes in both parties. Heroism, patriotism does not know a partisan label. Brianna Keilar, yesterday was talking with one of those heroes asking her about this controversy. She's a Democrat. She serves in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): I'm not going to dignify that with the response. I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorist. I don't need to justify myself to anyone.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to ask you when he brings up gold star families and they become sort of like a pawn in this political discourse, I mean what is your view on that?

DUCKWORTH: I'm disgusted. I would not -- I will never, ever use gold star families, military men and women, or their families, as any pawn in any political gain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's it. Again, she's a Democrat. But I think all of us could say, let's debate the policy, let's have sharp partisan differences but let's be careful. JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's clear thought here that a lot of Republicans, if you listened to that war powers debate yesterday on the House floor, are taking their cues from the President Trump here. And President Trump did say at the White House yesterday that Nancy Pelosi and Democrats were defending Soleimani by -- even dining to have this discussion about war powers.

So they -- I think a lot of Republicans feel emboldened. And we heard, I thought a striking amount of that on the House floor. People are saying that to debate whether our President has the power to engage in military action without coming to Congress is tantamount to helping Iran is dividing the country and is inappropriate. That was a really striking thing to hear. And I think we heard more of it than we usually do even in those kinds of debates.

COLLINS: It's also a ridiculous thing to say. There's a reason we're here and you can debate whether or not a president has the authority like that because he is not this all-powerful president. And that's why you heard criticisms from even members of his own party who are typically very loyal to him wanting to lay this out about what the war powers are and what the administration can do if something else does happens with Iran in the near future because that was the big question they had behind closed doors, is hypothetically, if a situation does comes up, do you feel like you need to come to us for authorization because they did it for this, they said it was so imminent, and then the President said, he didn't have time to call Pelosi. So that's why they're having this debate.

So to say that it's emboldening Iran by questioning the President's war powers authority is just kind of a silly argument I think.

KING: Debate is a sign of strength in the democracy not a sign of weakness.

As we go to break some news from the 2020 Democratic presidential race. The filterings again, the author and spiritual advisor, Marianne Williamson announcing just moments ago, she is suspending her campaign for president. She tells supporters in an e-mail, she knows the upcoming primaries and caucuses could be tight contests. And says, she doesn't want to, quote, get in the way of a progressive candidate winning any of them.

[12:44:05]

Up next for us, what the United States and Iran are saying today about the downing of that Ukraine airliner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling reporters a bit earlier today, the United States now believes it is, quote, likely that Iran shot down that Ukrainian jetliner earlier this week.

Pompeo promising, quote, inappropriate response once the facts are known for sure. Iranian authorities deny any hostile acts. One hundred and seventy-six people died in that plane crash in Tehran. This comes amid growing calls for transparency in the crash investigation.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live from Tehran. Fred, watching the experts on television earlier today, a lot of questions here, number one, about the black boxes. Number two, how and why was the debris field cleared so quickly?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're absolutely right John. And it's exactly the -- about the black boxes and the debris field that we've been asking a lot of questions here in Tehran as well. We were able to get in touch with the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Authority and I asked them exactly that. I said, why is that the debris field already been cleared? And he confirmed that the Iranians indeed have cleared that debris field.

He said, the larger pieces of debris and smaller pieces of debris have been brought away. The Iranians say what they've done is they brought those pieces to a hangar where forensic experts are then going to try and reconstruct the entire plane from that debris, to try and get a sense of what exactly happened to that plane, of course, whether or not there was some sort of outside influence like, for instance, a surface to air missile that impacted that plane and may have caused the outer hull of that plane to be punctured.

Now, from what we're hearing, the Ukrainian experts who are also on the ground here have also had access to that plane as well. As far as the black boxes are concerned, both the Ukrainians and the Iranians are trying to decipher those black boxes. They say, it could take up to two months to do that. They're putting, the flight data recorder has been damaged in that crash, John.

[12:50:05]

KING: Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us in Tehran, grateful again, Fred. As always, appreciate it.

Up next for us here, big developments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, a billionaire surges, and it's not Michael Bloomberg.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:32] KING: Tonight is the deadline for Democratic hopefuls to qualify for next week's big debate in Iowa. One candidate who's already secured his spot, the businessman and billionaire Tom Steyer. That's thanks to his big ads spending and his standing in the polls in some early states. This is pretty stunning. Let's take a look.

Here is Tom Steyer making a surge in South Carolina. Biden on top. Steyer now in second place in South Carolina at 15 percent, up 11 points from October. That is dramatic. You see the former Vice President down a little. Senator Sanders up a little. Elizabeth Warren down a little. Mayor Buttigieg up a little. But Tom Steyer now in second place in the important primary state of South Carolina.

Look at Nevada. It's also on the calendar in the first four. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden on top. Joe Biden on top. Bernie Sanders right behind him. Pretty static at the top of the race. But look at this, Tom Steyer now in third place in Nevada at 12 percent, up 7 points tied with Elizabeth Warren there and Mayor Buttigieg.

Now, how is all this happening? Steyer is campaigning across the country, but a lot of it is happening because of this. Let's be honest. You see the other candidates down here in their ads spending. Wow, 117 million spent by Mr. Steyer so far. Only Michael Bloomberg yet to register big time in the polls, but slowly inching up, keep an eye on him as well, 154 for Bloomberg, 117 for Steyer.

Let's just look. Remember, we just showed you that surge in South Carolina. Look at Steyer spending in South Carolina, $15.2 million compared to everybody else. These are the top candidates in spending in South Carolina. The former Vice President doesn't even make, and he hasn't spent that much yet, neither does Senator Warren, neither does Senator Sanders. That's a giant number.

So if you're a voter, impeachment is getting the national media attention, now Iran. If you turn on the TV in Nevada or South Carolina, odds are you'll see this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person on this stage who will say that climate is the number one priority for me. It's a state of emergency, and I would declare a state of emergency on day one.

I think it's important to note that this President is not against immigration, he's against immigration by non-white people. This is a racial argument by a racist president who's trying to divide us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's interesting, there's no question. The volume and the spending are a big piece of this, but the messaging is interesting, playing the racism argument, appealing to Latinos. That's the Nevada ad. And climate in South Carolina, an interesting choice by Steyer who, you can't dispute the numbers, he's moving up. Now people have to worry about him too.

TARINI PARTI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, the messaging is -- has been good, but you know, he has been putting on ads for so long now. He had these political groups before he started running for president who really had fine-tuned his messaging well before he was even a candidate.

In terms of the spending, he's doing kind of what Michael Bloomberg is doing but on a smaller scale. He's focusing on Nevada and South Carolina, two states where other candidates have not had the resources to really spread out their money in terms of TV ads. Bloomberg, on the other hand, is focusing on the Super Tuesday states where other candidates haven't even started spending money really in terms of ads on.

KING: And so when one candidate starts moving up, you start asking, where is it coming from? In the "Fox News" poll, they asked second choice, second choice for Steyer voters, voters who now say they're for Tom Steyer. Twenty-eight percent said Joe Biden would be their second choice, 19 percent Bernie Sanders, 14 percent Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker 10, Mayor Buttigieg 6. So, all of the candidates were losing something right at the moment.

Mr. Dan Balz, if you're Joe Biden and you're looking at that number, Dan, now do you have to worry about Tom Steyer or do you think this is just a passing fancy?

BALZ: I would think they're not terribly worried about Tom Steyer at this point, and those are two states that come after Iowa and New Hampshire. We know that from history that Iowa and New Hampshire will have a dramatic effect on South Carolina and Nevada voters. It looks as though this was, in part, strategic spending on Tom Steyer's part to qualify for the debates. He wants to continue to be on that stage. He wants to be seen as part of that mix.

KING: And it worked. To that point about Joe Biden, here's a new Iowa ad trying to take advantage of the moment, if you will.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lived in the most dangerous moment in the generation. Our world, set on edge. This is a moment that requires strong, steady, stable leadership. We need someone tested and trusted around the world. Joe Biden, a president with the experience to lead on day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This is an interesting debate at the moment, especially between Biden and Bernie Sanders. Biden says, I was the Vice President, Senate Foreign Relations' chairman. I have the experience. Bernie Sanders says, oh, no, you don't. You voted for the Iraq war. You don't have the judgment.

DAVIS: Right. And there's a lot of divisions among the Democrats about this issue right now. And while I think Biden thinks that the current geopolitics placed his strengths, he was the Vice President. He does have a lot of experience here.

[13:00:02]

There's -- the Democratic base is very upset about what they see as a possible rush to war. So Bernie does have an in on this issue as well.

KING: A debate next week.